Zimbabwe 100 Trillion Dollar Banknote, Year 2008 – Face and Back
This stacked configuration of rocks is a common trail marker for hikers in North America, and, I’d guess, the rest of the world. Two stones stacked might be a coincidence. But three stones stacked, or more, isn’t considered natural. Such stacking is an evidence of intent, and therefore, a signal, or signpost. And so, such hand stacked stones are commonly used for trail markers in the wilderness.
But these rocks in Zimbabwe are massive. They weigh tons. For a sense of scale, note in the image, the treetops surrounding the stones.
What giants stacked such stones?
And what sign did they wish to leave for us? What trail did they intend to mark?
They are signposts of the constructing powers nature. These stones congealed from molten lavas, as plutonic granites, within massive volcanic flows, just beneath the surface of the earth. As subsequent ages of erosion by wind and water lowered the surface of the land, and scoured the soils between the stones, these giants of the past were left, revealed.
The travel brochures tell us that the stones symbolize a need for balance between development and ecological preservation. That’s nice sentiment, and I am sure it is true. But it’s a sentiment that feels somehow imposed, rather than derived; and more contrived to sell postcards rather than to communicate a wisdom learned.
Especially considering this simple 3 stone signpost of nature appears beside the number One Hundred Trillion on a Zimbabwe banknote. “Trillion” is a word that was almost never heard a decade ago. It was used for measurements in science but almost never for money. A trillion is a thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand. It’s a number that we really cannot imagine. A thousand, thousand, thousand, thousand dollar bills, stacked on top of each other, would reach over 60 miles high. That number on a banknote indicates something seriously out of balance.
In the 1990s, president Robert Mugabe used monetary policy to rebalance the country’s culture after the serious racial imbalance of the past. The adjustments created serious imbalances in other ways. and the national economy was impoverished. The relation between a day’s labor, and the money received, became entirely out of balance. An imbalance of money was printed to offset the other imbalances; and the self-perpetuating cycle of hyperinflation took off, until the dollar was meaningless. This 100 trillion dollar banknote, in just a short time, became equal to zero.
Imagine placing 100 trillion dollars on one side of a balance scale and nothing on the other side, and the scale showing a perfect balance.
But those three stacked stones remain, balanced, an eternal signpost.